Braden Smith continued to show inconsistencies as a run blocker against the 49ers. He looked far more comfortable as a run blocker on the outside. We’ll now take a look at how he fared in pass protection. As before, we’ll examine plays from the weakest to strongest.
Yesterday, we pointed out how spectacular Quenton Nelson is on this play. His awareness and athletic ability saved a sure sack and allowed Luck to escape from the pocket to pickup a nice run and a first down. Today, we see how badly Smith is off balance and driven back on the play. You can see that he cheats to his outside and gets rocked off of his anchor by the defender. He is never able to recover wants he starts skating back and is lucky he doesn’t go right back through Andrew Luck.
In another example of failing to properly anchor against he defender, Smith is pushed back into the pocket and the defensive tackle swats at Luck’s pass. Luck is able to clear the defensive line but had to get rid of the ball or escape quickly.
This is an example of Smith losing to lateral quickness. He gives up his outside shoulder and the right tackle is not there to help. The second highlight shows that he is badly beaten and he is lucky and the pass gets away so quickly.
This is the play that Austin Howard wishes he could forget. I bring this play up because Smith actually does a fine job. He rightfully passes the outside defender off to Howard and has his eyes on the stunting linebacker. If Howard wasn’t facing his own end zone, Smith would have done a nice job of keeping the pocket clean.
This is an example of Smith doing something that he has been unable to do previously. He pulls and places a block on the free defensive lineman. If he doesn’t make this block, the running back gets destroyed and Luck faces pressure. Instead, Luck hits Ebron for a touchdown.
As with the running downs we analyzed, when Smith is able to get his hands on the defender and win the early advantage, he does a nice job. He has his shoulders square to the defender and gives no chance for a lane into the pocket.
This is another very pretty example of Smith passing off a defender smoothly to the right tackle. He identifies the stunt from the linebacker and has no issue disengaging from the initial block to keep the pressure from forming on the right side. He drives the linebacker so far into the backfield that Luck is starting at an empty field in front of him.
This is another play we looked at in our analysis on Quenton Nelson yesterday. I point out Smith on this play as he does a nice job maintaining control of the defensive lineman in front of him for nearly four seconds. If Nelson doesn’t trip and fall into him, there is every reason to believe he would have maintained complete control over the defender for even longer.
As we discussed with Smith’s performance as a run blocker, his issue is consistency. He will more often hold his own throughout a game but his mental errors, holding penalties, and limitations in space make him a bit of a wild card.
Smith needs to work on his technique to be effective as an interior offensive lineman in the NFL. He has to be able to maintain his base consistently, to avoid getting blown off of the ball with interior bull rushes. He has to continue working on his agility in space if he is going to be effective at pulling a placing blocks at the second level in this offensive scheme.
I still feel that he seems like a more natural fit at right tackle at this point in his career. With Good now injured, he may end up getting his chance to start at tackle in the regular season.